“I came across a cache of old photos
and invitations to teenage parties.
‘Dress in white,’ one said with quotations
from someone’s wife, a famous writer
in the nineteen-twenties.”
In 1990 I had no concept of psychedelic soul. My look back to the 1960s and 1970s had commenced but was in the early stages, tackling the classics from Love and the Beach Boys was the order of the day during the autumn. Was (Not Was) covered The Undisputed Truth’s Papa Was A Rolling Stone that year and gave it an art-funk twist. The original single is lost in the mists of time but The Temptations made it their own in 1973 when they recorded it a sombre 12 minute album track that was reduced to 6:53 for the 7″. Was (Not Was) used this edit as a template for their album cut and applied even more reduction for their radio version. It’s one of four heretofore uncompiled tracks on this Millennium Series entry and probably the most surprising; an excellent update of a timeless anthem.
32 of the 36 songs on Now That’s What I Call Music 1990: The Millennium Series have already been compiled elsewhere. Take a look at these reviews:
Now That’s What I Call Music 17: Phil Collins – I Wish It Would Rain Down, UB40 – Kingston Town, Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me, Adamski – Killer, Erasure – Blue Savannah, Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence, Happy Mondays – Step On, Primal Scream – Loaded, Paula Abdul – Opposites Attract, Lonnie Gordon – Happin’ All Over Again, Mantronix featuring Wondress – Got To Have Your Love, Inspiral Carpets – This Is How It Feels.
Snap! It Up – Monster Hits 2: England New Order – World In Motion.
Smash Hits 1990: MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This, Go West – The King Of Wishful Thinking.
The Greatest Hits Of 1990: Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K – Get Up.
Now That’s What I Call Music 18: Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares To U, Elton John – Sacrifice, Roxette – It Must Have Been Love, Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody, The La’s – There She Goes, Kim Appleby – Don’t Worry, Wilson Phillips – Hold On, Talk Talk – It’s My Life, Belinda Carlisle – (We Want) The Same Thing, INXS – Suicide Blonde.
The Hit Pack: Maria McKee – Show Me Heaven.
Now That’s What I Call Music 19: Robert Palmer – Mercy Mercy Me.
The Greatest Hits Of ’91: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – The Grease Megamix.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1990: Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens, Kylie Minogue – Better The Devil You Know, EMF – Unbelievable.
“The Happy Mondays were hedonistic Mancunions, a party with no beginning and no end, a party where Pills ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches was continually pumping. The apex of their career (and quite arguably the whole baggy/Madchester movement), Pills ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches pulsates with a garish neon energy, with psychedelic grooves, borrowed hooks, and veiled threats piling upon each other with the logic of a drunken car wreck.
As with Bummed, a switch in producers re-focuses and redefines the Mondays, as Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne replace the brittle, assaultive Martin Hannett production with something softer and expansive that is truly dance-club music instead of merely suggestive of it. Where the Stone Roses were proudly pop classicists, styling themselves after the bright pop art of the ’60s, the Mondays were aggressively modern, pushing pop into the ecstasy age by leaning hard on hip-hop, substituting outright thievery for sampling.
Although it’s unrecognizable in sound and attitude, Step On, the big hit from Pills, is a de facto cover of John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step on You Again, LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade provides the skeleton for Kinky Afro, but these are the cuts that call attention to themselves; the rest of the record is draped in hooks and sounds from hits of the past, junk culture references, and passing puns, all set to a kaleidoscopic house beat.
Oakenfold and Osborne may be responsible for the sound of Pills ‘N’ Thrills and Bellyaches, certainly more than the band, which almost seems incidental to this meticulously arranged album, but Shaun Ryder is the heart and soul of the album, the one that keeps the Mondays a dirty, filthy rock & roll outfit. Lifting melodies at will, Ryder twists the past to serve his purpose, gleefully diving into the gutter with stories of cheap drugs and threesomes, convinced that god made it easy on him, and blessed with that knowledge, happy to traumatize his girlfriend’s kid by telling them that he only went with his mother cause she was dirty. He’s a thug and something of a poet, creating a celebratory collage of sex, drugs, and dead-end jobs where there’s no despair because only a sucker could think that this party would ever come to an end.” (Diffo)
And that – in a nutshell – perfectly sums up the essence of the greatest Happy Mondays album. Their cover of Step On arrived in March and from then and all through the summer was inescapable. On car stereos, through open windows and in many nightclubs. The opening piano riff was a call to arms, utterly memorable. Pills was built on rhyming and stealing, nicking from diverse sources like Donovan, The New Seekers and LaBelle. John Harris’ take said this: “Its brilliance is partly down to the fact that it stands as a kind of biographical document…a record that sounds like the lives its authors were living.” The 2007 Rhino remaster is wonderfully colourful, even more so than my original LP that was purchased from KG Discs. More blanks are filled in with five bonus tracks: Step On (Twisting My Melon Mix), Kinky Afro (7″ Euro Mix), Loose Fit (12″ Version), Bob’s Yer Uncle (12″ Version) and the other Kongos cover, Tokoloshe Man. The Perfecto 12″ mixes of Loose ‘n’ Bob can be found on 1995’s Loads More, similar colour.
SITU 30L was the catalogue number for the limited edition version of The Charlatans’ Some Friendly LP. It came in a white PVC sleeve in which the regular cover fitted snugly within. The street date – 8 October 1990 – was one week after the Pixies’ legendary National Stadium concert. In a marketing move that harked back to Factory’s c.1983, The Only One I Know was left off the vinyl. A top 10 hit during May, it became (and still is) the band’s signature song with its swirling organ sound like Hush. The follow-up, Then, a steady groover is included on side 1 and holds its own on what’s a very strong, spacious and melodic debut. The band would go onto release two non-album singles in 1991, Over Rising and the now almost forgotten Me In Time. Their second album, the atmospheric Between 10th And 11th was even better, benefiting from Flood’s amazing production.
Madchester became something of an industry bandwagon from 1990. According to NME journalist Stuart Maconie, the British press had “gone bonkers over Manchester bands.” James were another beneficiary – the local success of their Rough Trade singles Come Home and Sit Down led to a deal with Fontana, an LP Gold Mother, a hit How Was It For You, a re-booted Come Home courtesy of Flood and two triumphant end of year gigs at the G-Mex. Also making their mark in 1990 were the Inspiral Carpets. In December they released the underrated Island Head EP (which also came as a live 12″) with the furious Weakness really showcasing the 1960s sound. There’s a 2CD Japanese pressing of Island Head containing a whopping 21 tracks – including remixes of She Comes In The Fall, Commercial Reign and This Is How It Feels – that’s a key document of the era.
1990 was the year of the remix. Fresh after the success of The Prayer Tour (supposed to be their final series of concerts), The Cure got into the groove with the release of Mixed Up during November – “something fun after the doom and gloom of Disintegration.” (Robert Smith) While some of the tracks had been previously released on 12″ singles, others were completely remade and rebuilt with Robert Smith re-cutting vocals due to the loss of the original tapes. The token new single is the enigmatic Never Enough, a fond memory from the Rosbercon youth club disco. And there’s more: there were also other new mixes released as B-sides of the singles from Mixed Up; Never Enough featured a remix of Let’s Go To Bed (Milk Mix) as well as a new song, Harold And Joe. The second single, Close to Me (Remix) contained Just Like Heaven (Dizzy Mix) and Primary (Red Mix) as B-sides. Finally, the third single – A Forest (Tree Mix) – included the original version of the song and Inbetween Days (Shiver Mix) on the CD single. Roll on Hyde Park next July.
Kylie Minogue stepped out of her comfort zone with Rhythm Of Love, her third album. While Stock, Aitken and Waterman were still primary producers, the likes of Stephen Bray, Michael Jay and Keith Cohen became involved. This meant less of the bubblegum pop sound of Kylie Minogue and Enjoy Yourself, and instead a harder, more stylish and dancier edge shone through. For the first time, some of Kylie’s own compositions were included – The World Still Turns, One Boy Girl, Count The Days, Rhythm Of Love – and the overall effect is a satisfying and well-rounded LP that’s bound together by the Golden Quartet of singles: the iconic Better The Devil You Know, the disco homage Step Back In Time, a ravetastic gem in What Do I Have To Do and the funky floor-filler Shocked.
Just 13 months after the seminal Club Classics Vol. One, Soul II Soul dropped the equally fantastic follow-up, Vol. II: 1990 – A New Decade. Gone was Caron Wheeler but stepping on: Kym Mazelle, Lamya, Marcia Lewis, and Victoria Wilson-James, saxophonist Courtney Pine and Fab 5 Freddy of Rapture fame. Thoughts: “In a way, 1990 is very Balearic at its heart: the tempos are nearly ideal, the funky percussion and less straightforward dance rhythms link the deeper beats with delicate surface layers of pattern, the musical styles are diverse, the production carefully creates a consistent mood and resonates emotionally — this latter goal obviously transcends all other priorities for the group. The main theme here is the intersection of inclusive diversity (diversity in all senses of the word: racial, class, sound, style), positivity, and the dancefloor.” (Pyenapple) It works even better on the dancefloor; there’s some brilliant drum sounds and on Missing You, a superb vocal performance from Mazelle. While the first Club Classics was almost like a retrospect of previously released 12″ singles, the second LP is more cohesive and conceived as a unit. Get A Life appears on this Millennium edition, powerful and hypnotic.
“When I went, I left from the station
with a haversack and some trepidation.
Someone said ‘If you’re not careful,
you’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for
in the nineteen-seventies.'”
Being Boring is to So Hard as Love Comes Quickly is to West End Girls. The understated second single that peaked at #20. Such an underwhelming chart run meant that the track was dropped from the 1991 Performance tour. “I came from Newcastle in the North of England. We used to have lots of parties where everyone got dressed up. And on one party invitation was the quote ‘she was never bored because she was never boring.’ The song is about growing up—the ideals that you have when you’re young and how they turn out.” (Neil Tennant) But in the midst of this thoughtful reflection on life, love and loss, there’s a melancholy twist; one of Neil’s long-time friends (who had also moved to London at same time) died from AIDS shortly before the song was written. Live the carnage, live the fear, live for the day because you know your time is short. In short, Being Boring evokes the experience of life with all its regrets and lessons. “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.” (Zelda Fitzgerald)
“Now I sit with different faces
in rented rooms and foreign places.
All the people I was kissing,
some are here and some are missing
in the nineteen-nineties.”
Happy Mondays – Step On
The Charlatans – The Only One I Know
New Order – World In Motion
Soul II Soul – Get A Life
Lest we forget
Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now That’s What I Call Music 1990: The Millennium Series will go down in history as another classic, the fourth in a row. The set is top-loaded with serious heat including a number of film tie-ins (not forgetting The King Of Wishful Thinking on CD2). Then there’s a generous selection of baggy tunes – albeit This Is How It Feels should really be on CD1 – and you do get a sense of how important the Madchester era was. Having said that, Candyflip’s Strawberry Fields Forever would be welcome along with the Stone Roses’ last stand of One Love. I’d also have liked The Cure’s Close To Me remix somewhere. Over to disc 2: From Opposites Attract we’re in the club zone for eight or so tunes before the thoughtful introspection of Being Boring while ending with It’s My Life is a masterstroke.
There’s very little between this edition and Now’s 10th Anniversary set for the year. There are 23 overlapping tracks – Phil Collins, UB40, Beats International, Adamski, Erasure, Depeche Mode, Paula Abdul, Mantronix featuring Wondress, Inspiral Carpets, Sinead O’Connor, Elton John, Roxette, Righteous Brothers, The La’s, Kim Appleby, Wilson Phillips, Belinda Carlisle, INXS, MC Hammer, Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K, Del Amitri, EMF, Kylie Minogue. There were just two regular Now albums released in 1990 and 22 of their tracks are featured on the Millennium entry while Robert Palmer’s Mercy Mercy Me would end up on 1991’s Now 19. Once again, the Hits team get a poor return – just two songs compared to seven slots for them on Now That’s What I Call Music 1990.
There were 17 number ones in 1990. We get six while the 10th Anniversary set had seven. Both Ice Ice Baby and Turtle Power would have fitted on either side of U Can’t Touch This while Elton’s invisible AA-side Healing Hands really deserves a chance to shine. Also missed from the gold medallists: Snap’s The Power and The Beautiful South’s A Little Time. Elsewhere, there’s room in my heart for the late Guru Josh (Infinity), New Kids On The Block (Tonight or even Hangin’ Tough), Halo James (Could Have Told You So), David Bowie (Fame ’90), Black Box (Fantasy), Julee Cruise (Falling) and Chris Isaak (Wicked Game). Go on then! Betty Boo’s fantastic Where Are You Baby? or Doin’ The Do. Lastly, it was a year of indie purchases; the Wedding Present were on Top Of The Pops twice with Brassneck and Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) while from Morrissey’s Bona Drag – the Hatful Of Hollow of the day, there was scope for November Spawned A Monster.